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Five Design Priorities for Your Home

Any design project is going to be filled with more decisions than you can anticipate. There’s a balance between understanding how to compromise on things that aren’t as important and prioritize the things that really matter. Here’s what we recommend to help our clients make good choices for their projects without giving up what they love.

March 25, 2021

My family spent a week in an isolated vacation rental and the calm gave me plenty of time to really soak in my surroundings. If you’ve read any of my posts about travel you may know what is coming: architects and designers are cursed because we can’t turn off our observations (and opinions) of the spaces we inhabit. Vacation rentals are a particular challenge for me because I’m supposed to be relaxing and turning off work, yet I end up spending hours re-designing everything I see.

And what I saw in the case of the most recent rental I stayed in were a lot of mistakes. They weren’t mistakes caused by a builder installing something wrong. No, that would have been almost forgivable. These were mistakes made in the design. Choices were made and they were not the right ones.

The worst part is the bed in this house was outstanding. I could have slept there all morning long and, wonderfully, my boys are now at the age where they’ll let me sleep and can get their breakfast all sorted on their own. But the comfortable bed was just a tease. The flimsy hollow core door between the bedroom and the kitchen meant that there was to be no sleeping in for me. As I shuffled from the bed weary-eyed, I’d eye the places where the owners indulged their budget and resented the places they chose to cut back.

Mistakes in design can be more impactful than simple errors.

Here, in no order at all, are five ways to figure out where to compromise and what to prioritize when designing your home.

Set Priorities in Your Budget

Every project has a budget even when the resources are endless (and 99.9% of the time resources are not endless). Within that budget, you should be mindful of what you actually get, the quality of what you’re choosing, and the impact what you’re choosing will have on the overall space. Remember, a splurge in one place could impact a design choice down the line.

In the case of the vacation home I rented, a few hundred dollars to upgrade the hollow-core doors to solid-core doors would have made a tremendous improvement in the enjoyment of the space. That same reduction in cost to something like tile would not have been noticed.

Stay True to Your Vision

Designing a new space takes time, and building it takes even more. That time should be worth it and end with a house or space you truly love. We all have something we want to include in our design really badly or something that means a lot to us. This emotional draw to a space is necessary.

It can be tempting to cut items that help you maintain that draw if they look like splurges when space or budget become restraints. But these are the places you should, be spending a little more money. Otherwise, you could regret it for years to come. Be true to what you want and build around that.

Make Your Kitchen Functional

You can forgive a lot of things: small bedrooms, bathrooms with finishes that aren’t quite right, or specifications that aren’t your ideal, like windows. But you can’t skip the kitchen layout. You’re going to be in this room the most. Get the layout right.

Be Honest With Your Design Partner

Being honest with your architect or interior designer is maybe obvious, but what I really mean is to be honest with the person you’re going be spending time with in the space. It’s always painful to look across a table (or a screen these days) into two clients’ eyes when one is super excited and the other one is holding something back. Don’t do this! I know it may be tough to create some conflict here, but if your partner doesn’t know and you end up building something you don’t like because you never spoke up, the end result will be much worse than a few awkward conversations.

Let There Be Light

Let there be really good light! A really mediocre space can be transformed by beautiful, layered lighting. An awesome space can be mind-blowing when the light is outstanding. If you’re left with a great space that is poorly lit, you’re missing out on an awesome opportunity and you will regret it.

Understanding what you want to prioritize in design can help you understand where you might be willing to compromise. Make your space something that resonates with you and is true to your goals and desires. You won’t regret that choice and the minor design mistakes that you may still make will seem trivial in comparison.

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